BRI Apma Hayes may only be one year out of high school, but already the young Indigenous woman is striving to improve the experience of those that come after her in her local community.
Put simply, Bri, a proud Arrente woman from Geelong, with a family originating in Alice Springs, did not learn enough about Indigenous culture as part of her education.
This not only left the possibility for Indigenous students to lose touch with their own culture but means their own peers know little to nothing about the heritage of their own classmates.
“I have always been quite connected to my culture, but it is not like that for everyone,” Bri explained.
While aware of the gap in Indigenous education throughout her schooling, Bri says attending her first KGI REAL Camp and meeting other like-minded Indigenous youth gave her the confidence to speak up about it.
“The safe space that KGI gives and being around other young people with the same beliefs and views that I had just gave me the other reassurance that I was not alone on things,” she added.
“I still talk to them (other KGI participants from her years in the program) every day.”
Once returned from her initial KGI camps, Bri pushed for more to be said about Indigenous culture in the classrooms.
Ideally, she told teachers it would be brought into the curriculum, giving students a set time to develop an understanding of Australia’s first peoples.
“I have moved on from high school now, but I am doing the same thing in primary schools and really pushing to have our culture in focus.”
Bri, 19, is a Koori Support Officer at Geelong Primary School, working closely with Indigenous kids in break-away groups to enhance their knowledge of their family culture.
Just as importantly, she also runs sessions to entire classes, comprising Indigenous and non-Indigenous students, to grow understanding across the board.
“A lot of the teachers never learned that stuff while they were at school, so it is sometimes the first time they have heard of it as well,” Bri explained.
“I am getting into prep, one (and) two classes, and I think it resonates a lot with the teachers and non-Indigenous students as well.
“It is really important to do this work because these kids will grow up now always having that understanding, and there won’t be the gap people my age maybe had.”
Bri hopes to educate others about Indigenous culture and empower other Aboriginal youth to be proud of their heritage right through her professional career.
“I would love to do similar things to what KGI did for me and being there for young people, giving them a safe place to build on their cultural identity and strengthen that connection,” she said.
Already the wheels are in motion for such future ambitions, with Bri currently completing a Certificate 4 in youth work and working part-time with Wathaurong making food deliveries to the community.